LIMESTONE Maine — According to a family member, the only thing Leon Carroll Jr. loved more than fishing was his wife, Sandra, and one was rarely seen without the other.
This past Sunday, after 40-plus years of marriage, the two died within minutes of each other when Sandra suffered a heart attack attempting to resuscitate Leon, who had just choked on a piece of food, according to Chief Stacey Mahan of the Limestone Police Department.
Sandra Carroll, 69, called 911 at 12:25 p.m. Sunday, Mahan said, to report her husband had choked and was unconscious.
The call routed through the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, which immediately dispatched an ambulance from Crown Ambulance in Presque Isle, Mahan said, while the dispatcher stayed on the line with Sandra Carroll.
“The dispatcher asked her if she knew CPR,” Mahan said Thursday morning. “She started CPR and at one point around 12:30 told the dispatcher she was not feeling well and was going to pass out.”
The dispatcher lost contact with Sandra Carroll at that point and, according to Mahan, when the ambulance arrive at the Lane Terrace Street home 10 minutes later, the first responders found both had died at the scene.
Leon Carroll had died as a result of choking, Mahan said, and his wife from a heart attack.
“People are saying it is a tragedy,” the chief said. “But at the same time they are saying, ‘What a loving way to go.’”
That the two should die nearly at the same moment, while very sad, did not surprise Allen Menard, Leon Carroll’s younger brother, who on Thursday morning spoke of a life shared between the couple, who met when Leon got a contract to do some painting at a nursing home in Rhode Island where she worked.
The two traveled from Rhode Island to Georgia and on to Maine as Leon, who suffered from several disabilities and seizures stemming from an earlier head injury, followed the work he could get.
“He was on medication but he really wanted to work,” Menard, 64, said. “Back in those days, he was pretty strong and it was amazing what he could do.”
Despite having more than a quarter of his brain covered in a metal plate, Leon Carroll took and was successful in jobs ranging from construction to high steel work, his brother said.
About 12 years ago, the couple moved to Limestone to be near Menard, who was working at the time at the old Loring Air Force Base.
Menard has since moved to Livermore, but said he could never convince his brother and sister-in-law to move south.
“We wanted them to come down here [and] made several stabs at getting them a place here,” he said. “They didn’t want to leave their home or gardens — they didn’t like the cold, but they liked Limestone.”
For a time, Leon worked jobs around town as a custodian at the town library, school and town office.
And always, right there at his side taking care of him, Menard said, was Sandy.
“They were very much in love [and] he couldn’t do without her,” Menard said. “If he and I went on a fishing trip, he’d just pine for her the whole time.”
When the couple, who never had children, lived in Rhode Island, Menard said, Leon would fish at the beach near their home.
“My brother lived for fishing and he could not go by himself,” he said. “Sandy would go with him and she’d walk the beach while he did his fishing.”
Sandra Carroll had health problems of her own, Menard said, and underwent heart surgery about three years ago in southern Maine.
Concerns for her husband’s well-being were greater than for her own heart condition, Menard said, so much so, he added, that she never followed through on doctors’ appointments in southern Maine after the surgery because it would have meant leaving him at home for periods of time.
“They did everything together,” Menard said. “She was always trying to cook things he liked, he was kind of a finicky eater, but she took care of that.”
The couple were always joking with each other and were happy with their life in Limestone, Menard said, where Sandra had transformed the small yard behind their house into a vibrant flower garden.
“Sandy loved her flowers,” he said.
After he found out about their deaths Sunday, Menard said his “first thought was it was kind of a blessing because he would not have made it without her and she would not have made it without him, either.”
Some have termed the couple’s dying together as “romantic,” Menard said, and he is not sure he’d go that far.
But he did like what a woman at his church in Livermore had to say when his wife told her what had happened.
“She told my wife, ‘God knew they could not live without each other,’” Menard said. “I really feel that was right.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the dispatching agency as the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office. It was the Penobscot Regional Communications Center which handled the call. It also misidentified the ambulance service that went to the home. Crown Ambulance of Presque Isle responded.